No-Till Farming: Myths & Challenges
No-till farming practices, diverse crop rotations, cover crops and integrating livestock into crop production require a different kind of management when compared with conventional farming. Although most crop and livestock producers have a good idea of the desired outcomes that center on improved soil health, achieving these is not always easy. Somewhere, in most producers’ history, practices such as no-till that favor improved soil health may have been attempted. However, complexities, such as the interactions of climate (precipitation and temperature) along with equipment availability and adjustment, planting dates, crop variety selection, fertilizer placement, and several other factors have come together presenting challenging hurdles for ag producers.
As a result, inaccurate conclusions, or misconceptions, about why certain practices did not work may have caused producers to quit using them. Some producers are concerned however that these ideas will not work for them. These concerns are primarily management issues that include planting into too much residue, low soil temperatures, too much soil moisture in the spring, weed concerns and basic economics. So many times a crop farmer has said “it may work for you, but not for me on my farm”, while the crop producer immediately across the road from him, is successful.
So, what keeps most crop producers from using or trying no-till farming, adopting more diverse crop rotations, establishing cover crops and using livestock to complete the system? Several have pondered this question realizing that the key to widespread improvement and preservation is the understanding of our most important natural resource, the soil.
“Merit or Myth” Project
The “Merit or Myth” project seeks to engage Ag producers, scientists and conservationists in an effort to address concerns or misconceptions about using soil health management practices, such as no-till. Are the complexities true or false? The Merit or Myth project is a cooperative effort conducted by the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, the USDA NRCS and other partners. Many successful South Dakota soil health producers are being highlighted along with research and SDSU experts who are presenting the science in a series of short video clips, blogs, and podcasts. The first Merit or Myth discussion: “Residue: A Friend or Enemy” features Dr. Dwayne Beck in a video entitled “Residue is Your Friend”. View the residue management discussion. Stay tuned for updates, and feel free to “like and share” with your contacts as Buz Kloot and Barrett Self explore South Dakota and address complexities of modern agriculture and soil health practices.